Who’ll show the elephant out of the room?

Who’ll show the elephant out of the room?

There's this huge elephant in this room, of which no one -- neither the military government nor the general public -- talks about out loud, and it's one of the most likely explanations why the regime has held on to power as long as it has.

Even though he has expressly promised through his hit song that "we'll do as promised. Please give us a little more time", it appears Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha has asked for five more years.

This isn't going to be the most perfect analogy of the year but here goes: as time has passed, almost two years under his power, the relationship between Gen Prayut and his critics has gone from bad to worse.

Growing frustration stems from a lack of freedom of speech, the violent abduction of dissidents, the violation of rights, his bad moods with the press, the attitude-adjustment sessions, and so on. On our part, it feels like we are going endlessly round in circles, repeating ourselves and running out of topics to talk about.

Yet, with this elephant in the room, it's understandable to a certain extent why we are going round and round in circles. It's because we don't have the freedom to address the matter openly that we never get the bottom of things.

With time, you get used to anything. Next month marks the second anniversary of the 2014 coup, and look at how subdued society is now. We have come a long way, where someone just standing still in a public space can be arrested and jailed. As humans, it's our instinct to adapt to the situation we're in. So while professing our opposition to the military, to go on living our lives we also try to come to terms with the situation, trying to make this relationship work.

Through either free will or force, the military government must realise that people have remained relatively obedient despite rights violation issues. With the recent resurgence of opposition to military rule, it might be wise for the military government to start rethinking about what it has done so far as means to achieving compromise in this relationship.

Regarding the nepotism controversy over his brother Gen Preecha and his nephew, acting Sub Lt Patipat, Gen Prayut said "everything was legal and correct, and that's it".

That wasn't a very wise thing to say. It's a wonder there hasn't been an uproar already. An uproar instigated by whom? Perhaps by the very people who were so furious about former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra bringing his own sister in to office, by the way, through a properly democratic process.

What's also not very wise is how in a recent interview, when Gen Prayut was pressed about democracy, he hit back by asking whether gardeners and farmers have any knowledge of the issue. Was Gen Prayut implying that those people are stupid, and there are some people, himself included, who are superior to others?

What's also not a good idea is the Referendum Act -- with its heavy penalties ranging from a jail term of up to 10 years and a fine of up to 200,000 baht -- which is apparently intended to curb dissent and gag the media and academics from freely expressing their views.

What the military is doing is no less than testing the people's patience, first with the charter draft's fixed senator posts for armed forces and police chiefs, and now with the situation where to vote "no" in the referendum almost seems like a crime.

Gen Prayut wouldn't like it but the person most suitable for bringing him to senses is no other than Thaksin himself.

It was quite a sensation on social media on Sunday when Thaksin posted on his Facebook, partly in retaliation to Gen Prayut's accusation that he's behind the recent resurgence in opposition to his military regime.

He argued Gen Prayut has only himself to blame, that if he wants to know how terrible he is, Gen Prayut need only go back and listen to what he himself has been saying. "You will realise that there's no lobbyist in this world who has the ability to destroy you as much as what you do to yourself," Thaksin wrote.

In a number of cases, those who shared Thaksin's post aren't necessarily advocates of Thaksin. "Life is funny," one post reads. The author said he took part in protests in 2005 to drive out Thaksin. Now, years later and under military rule, he presses "like" on Thaksin's Facebook status.

Life is funny, indeed. There was a time when arguments like "it's all Thaksin's fault" seemed all-powerful and inexhaustible. Gen Prayut should take heed, because there will come a day when "It's all Thaksin's fault" is no longer legit and the only person left to blame is himself.

Kaona Pongpipat

Writer for the Life section

Kaona Pongpipat is a writer for the Life section of the Bangkok Post.

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